By Jamie Gonzales
The recent award from Conde Naste Traveler (CNT) put Boracay Island back on top as the number one island in the world. When I first saw this being applauded by many, I was, well, a bit surprised. No, shocked would be more appropriate. What was such a prestigious publication such as CNT thinking of. Had they sent someone to check the island out since its reopening. The answer was surely, No.
Granted, huge steps forward have been made in terms of compliance from most of the commercial establishments. And the sewage and many of the main drainage issues have been improved. Island occupancy levels are effectively monitored and controlled, and general standards of garbage management and collection are better than they have been for many a year. Building permits have been properly regulated. But, does this make us the No 1 island in the world?
The CNT awards, as prestigious as they used to be, have since lost a lot of credibility as an industry standard leader. The sample sizes, criteria and system used have all come into question over the past few years.
Let’s take a look first at the sample size of the Readers’ Choice Awards:
• They state a global campaign resulted in a record 600,000 taking part in the survey. You may be led to believe that that number all voted in the Best Island in the world sector. But that’s not necessarily the case. They report that “This year, we've broken them out by region: the best in Asia, Australia and the South Pacific, Caribbean and the Atlantic, Europe, North America, and best in the rest of the world.” So, the way market research works, is, that different parts of the world (for their surveys purpose) will have more - or less, islands than other parts.
The results, when compiled, can be extremely misleading when it just comes down to bare numbers. And to dilute it even further, the total survey number includes the following categories; best hotels in the world; best resorts in the world; best cities in the world; best spas in the world; best islands in the world; top trains; top 20 countries - a whopping 53 in total. So looking at the bigger picture, that 600,000 may now not seem such a large number. And when you break it down into how many actually voted in each category, it dwindles down to a relatively small survey, especially when your branding it as the “Best in the World.”
• Criteria: The strategy used for this obviously varies greatly. Hotels, for instance, will have a different criteria from a spa, and so on. But generally speaking, they use only six, yes that’s right, multi choice questions. Not exactly indicative of what’s going on.
• System: So, it’s easy to ask your readers what, in their opinion, is the best island, spa, hotel, etc, etc. But if they haven’t been there for a while (or ever), are they the best people to judge on such a thing. A recent, first-hand experience is what’s needed. Not an out of date or ill-informed opinion.
How many online surveys can you enter these days. Dozens of them. Do they ask if you’re an expert on the subject, or if you have any up to date info or relevant experience on the subject? I don’t know of any that do.
Reviewing the above leads me to believe that it’s not enough for CNT to dish out an award stating that Boracay (nor anywhere else) is the No 1 in the world. How many people who participated have actually visited Boracay during 2019 - I’d bet not many, certainly not enough to validate such an award.
Take a look at the picture I took on Nov 6 (last month). This is on the famous White Beach almost in front of the iconic and most photographed place on Boracay, Willy’s Rock. As beautiful and exciting as Boracay is, things like this are still holding the island back, certainly from being numero uno. I’m actually surprised at the levels of acceptance of this award. Surely you shouldn't pat yourself on the back and acknowledge something that you know is not yet deserved.
Maybe CNT should give the island another six to nine months to fully rehabilitate itself, then send a journalist here (they have excellent writers) to fact check a few things, and then put together a feature article showing what has been achieved and is on offer.
After reading that, I might start believing in them again. As for their awards - well that’s a story for another day...
Tourists that spend their days on the beach (especially those that enter and leave via private shuttles) could and do say it is back to top form. Although some insiders, on the other hand, find the title premature in light of the still ongoing island rehabilitation, the accolade is much appreciated, if only to recognize the tremendous efforts and sacrifices of one tiny beach in Asia that is inspiring others in joining the worldwide call for environment preservation and sustainable tourism.